Thursday, September 29, 2005

In Your Own Words: System of a Down

"Daron Malakian blew the crowd away with his seamless passage from intricate fretwork into hurtling momentum, dropping into lushly melodic harmonies and jolting back again to mind-bending speed metal riffage." Or so says our reviewer of SOAD's August show at the Nissan Pavilion in Northern VA.

Do you agree? Give us the goods on SOAD's 2005 Tour.

Want a flashback? Flip through photos of SOAD in concert.

Got the set list? Post it here and compare shows!

Friday, August 19, 2005


Tell Us What You Think: Agree with Ames' take on Dave Matthews Band live? Feel like she must be deaf, dumb and blind? This is your chance to spout off and share your opinion.

Do you agree? Let us know if you see eye to eye.

Not sure what to say? Read her review to get started.

Got another set list? Post it here so we can compare shows!


AOL Music Live, Roseland Ballroom, New York, 5/9/05




Though some may deem it heresy, I have never been one to sit vigilantly by the DMB website itching for news of their next show, ready to pounce the moment their tix went on sale. I’ve never owned a DMB album, nor have I jumped at the chance to join when friends asked "Who's in for tix to the DMB show at Wherever Pavilion?" But let me now go on record and say that, going forward, I may have to reconsider my position. 


While bands like Coldplay and Radiohead are about creating soundscapes that express their introspection, and those like Green Day are about a rowdy connection with the crowd, DMB are about conversation. And their language? The unspoken, almost telepathic vocabulary of music. I’m talking about the mythical, mystical state of being "in the groove." 


Though many bands with a rapport are capable of creating a vibe, "the groove" is the particular domain of The Jam Band. Much maligned by those who can't dig the vibe and those with short attention spans, The Jam Band specializes in musicalconversations in a regional dialect known as Improvisation.


Like listening to native speakers of Italian and French, conversational music is a romance language. 


What wooed me? The way Dave Matthews Band embarks on its familiar subject matter, while still finding new things to say. It's like watching old friends or great comedians riff off each other, cracking each other up, egging each other on, taking it one notch higher, breaking it down again. One big, communal eavesdropper, the audience is Dave's little brother sitting in the backseat, laughing along. 


It’s clear that Dave is a generous musician who still gets his kicks listening to his own band-mates play. He gives each one their turn to plead their case, monologue, or crack their jokes in the spotlight for some crazy solo over a kickin’ jam. You’ll never see him interrupt before they’ve said what they came to say. 


And what musical conversationalists he's gathered around himself. Where else will you hear a fiddle like that of Boyd Tinsley, an indelible part of DMB's trademark sound? The eclecticism of Carter Beauford’s percussion, circling him nearly 360 degrees, provides both backbone and spice with remarkable finesse. A drummer standing out and announcing himself with an identifiable sound of his own is really refreshing these days. With saxophones from baritone to soprano, LeRoi Moore evidences impressive range, moving the music along like a freight train, laying down a moody melody, or riffing like a jazz master. My weakness being bass, I was thrilled to see Stefan Lessard switch from four-string to five and six-strings, which always add real meat to the bones. Then to my personal favorite, the fretless, which swerved seamlessly from the sound of a stand-up to a bendy, funk slow jam that hit the spot. Boys and their toys, as the old band saying goes. Meanwhile, Dave remained monogamous, staying true to his trusty acoustic the whole night long.


Considering the lengths to which members of the Warehouse, DMB's famously feverish fan club, went to secure tickets to this private concert held by AOL Music Live, I should have been branded a heretic once I got one foot in the door. I began the evening a non-believer, challenging DMB to convert me. And now, after a nearly 4 hour show on the crowded, general admission floor of NYC’s Roseland Ballroom, I find myself a believer. After years hearing how "amazing" DMB are live, I’ve seen it for myself. And I’m here to testify… their word was the gospel truth. 


The High Notes

Set Standouts


One Sweet World – This was one interesting time signature. It's a testament to the feel-good grooves Dave creates that such a huge crowd got swept up by some complicated musicality. Perhaps because he never made it sound complicated. With a Cheshire Cat grin, Dave broke into some off-the-wall scatting, giving us a glimpse of the prankster within. He's out of his tree.


Stone – Leveraging the piano/bass/guitar trifecta to move it along with a driving undercurrent of tension, the ominous baritone sax almost sounded like a tuba or a foghorn. Gotta love artful dynamics that really set a mood like the one in this euphoria-inducing tune. Dave & Co. were particularly impressed with how attuned their crowd were as we began singing Elvis' chorus, "I can't help falling in love with you," over the most subtle of segues. Facing the drums, Dave pointed over his shoulder at the crowd as Carter applauded us for catching on to their inside joke.


Two Step – I'm a sucker for this song, with its seriously singable melody and Carter's rat-a-tat-tat drum backbone sounding like a marching band on jazz drugs. The jamming really hit its stride, featuring a monstrous solo by the keyboardist, which brought down the house and garnered enthusiastic whoops of approval from Dave. It seemed we were witnessing something special, out of the ordinary, right up to Carter's galloping, runaway train of an ending. 


Ants Marching – Boyd had a truly transcendent moment on the fiddle solo. This was one of my faves, with it's beautiful melody. Knowing their massive catalogue of hits backwards and forwards enables DMB to really tailor each gig's setlist, moving the audience in whatever direction their whim dictates. And what a luxury to always have an audience this pliable.


Everyday – I loved what Boyd did with an odd bow and wah-wah pedal combo -- a highly original sound. And I blush to admit that kicking into the chorus made me spontaneously break into the eyes-closed hippie dance. Not since early 90s Phish shows have I broken out those moves. Egads. As the crowd sings the chorus, Dave ad libs a harmony over it, almost like a round. It must be a treat to be your own backup singer every once in a while. Dave's rapport, both withhis band and with the audience, is undeniable. 


-Ames Friedman


Watch: More Dave Matthews Band Videos

Friday, July 29, 2005


Tell Us What You Think: Agree with Angela's take on the Black Eyed Peas live? Feel like she must be deaf, dumb and blind? This is your chance to spout off and share your opinion.

Do you agree? Let us know if you see eye to eye.

Not sure what to say? Read our review to get started.

Got another set list? Post it here so we can compare shows!


The Apollo Theater, New York, 6/9/05

The interesting thing about the Black Eyed Peas is that most hip-hop heads pishaw their popular (emphasis on pop), colorful, multi-culti outfit as a gimmick not worthy of 'real' hip-hop (emphasis on glocks and cocks). But actually, in the vein of hip-hop's beginnings – when it was all about pure, unadulterated partying, the Peas make the grade. The crew started their North American tour at the historic Apollo Theater.

BEP has been in existence for 10 years, but it wasn't until William '' Adams, Allen '' Pineda and Jaime 'Taboo' Gomez added one Stacy 'Fergie' Ferguson to their group in 2003 that they began to reach heights as awesome as their powerful break-dance moves. The fashionable foursome hit the Apollo and thoroughly rocked the audience (which even included a then-missing-in-action Dave Chappelle).

Talib Kweli opened the show with his rousing and politically astute raps. The crew – always well turned out – Fergie, just as trendy as future tour-mate Gwen Stefani but with better moves; in some sort of fashion fusion of English aristocrat and b-boy; Taboo's long, lean brown fit, complete with thigh high boots; and Ap with his sexy Mohawk (in itself a fashion statement) – ripped into their seamless set of pop chart sweethearts for a solid hour and a half.

Like The Fugees, another hip-hopping, girl-sangin', mixed-gender crew, the Peas' live show is what may turn many non-believers into the choir. By using classic and contemporary hip-hop tunes mixed into their songs – everything from
Public Enemy's 'Bring The Noise' to Fat Joe's 'Lean Back,' and even a little Snoop riff thrown in for good measure, the Peas were able to show their breadth of hip-hop knowledge, but also to keep even those not familiar with their songs entertained.

When they hit hits like "Where Is the Love?" "Don't Phunk With My Heart," "Let's Get It Started," and "Shut Up" the whole place transformed into a giant karoke session -- the balconies were shaking with people hollering the lyrics. The cool thing about the Peas is that its audience is as diverse as the group -- everybody from soccer moms and their offspring, to very trendy twentysomethings to grandpas who wouldn't be caught dead at a rap show, were all swaying to the same syrupy tunes.

A former break-dancing crew (incidentally, one of the pillars of hip-hop – and did you know they were signed to Eazy E's Ruthless Records before he died?), each member is a serious dancer, and each had their own time to shine with flips reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil. The Peas' funkin' multi-piece band included guitar, sax, flute, keys, bass, drums and trumpet, and perfectly complimented the onstage acrobatics. Just to keep it hip-hop, there was a DJ and MP3 player in addition to live instrumentation. It was just a big old jam.

As far as they go in pop's landscape, the Black Eyed Peas' show proves that they are in fact (in their words, deeds and moves) hip-hop for life. Like said to the Apollo audience, the Peas ''keep it real'' by ''paying homage to the knowledge.''

Where is the love? Right on stage with the Peas, baby!

-Angela Bronner, guest reviewer

Find Black Eyed Peas Tickets: See the tour & form your own opinion!


Tell Us What You Think: Agree with Janenne's take on Toby & Lee Ann live? Feel like she must be deaf, dumb and blind? This is your chance to spout off and share your opinion.

Do you agree? Let us know if you see eye to eye.

Not sure what to say? Read Janenne's review to get started.

Got the set list? Post it here so we can compare notes!


The Big Throwdown II Tour, Nissan Pavilion, Bristow VA, 7/9/05 


Listening to Lee Ann Womack sing is like listening to a pure, angelic sound. Her voice is always on-target, whether recorded or live. It’s clear she was born to sing country music. Her fans know and love this about her, and it showed in tonight’s performance. Speaking of the loyal fans, who poorly received her CD released in '02 showcasing Lee Ann’s more pop looks and sounds, they now welcome her back with open arms after her latest release, There's More Where That Came From. Her stage set-up was simple: drums, rhythm, electric, bass, keys and fiddle. No flashy lights – just music, a beautiful voice, and great songs. In her Capri jeans and white baby doll top, it was easy to see that she really knows her audience.

Lee Ann opened her set with "Now You See Me Now You Don't," a fun little ditty about leaving a relationship. She then went into her more serious songs, such as "Two is a Crowd," in which she sings about a husband who supposedly 'works' too much, and a wife working up the strength to leave. It’s a very traditional country song, and of course, was an excellent display of Lee Ann’s vocal ability. She also did a great rendition of "I Got The Picture, She Got You." With its nice bluesy sound, it was one of my favorites. Who knew she had that much soul?!

Among the crowd favorites was "I’ll Think Of A Reason Later," a clever tongue-in-cheek song about a girl not liking the new chick in her ex-boyfriend’s life. Our girl calls her nemesis a thin little target, and sings about blacking out her teeth. She doesn’t know why she hates her, but she’ll think of a reason later. Something every woman, at one time or another, has probably shamefully experienced. Next came her current single on the charts, "I’ll Hate Myself In The Morning," in which the audience got to enjoy the surprise guest Jack Ingram who wasin the video and also sang on the song. Of course, her big closing was the all-time favorite song for her to beat, "I Hope You Dance." It was every bit the show-stopper that a final song should be. Now on to the headliner, the one who sold the show, Mr.
Toby Keith.

I was surprised to see all the entertainment aspects of Toby’s show, which started with a video of aliens trying to fight with Toby, but in the end were just trying to steal him and get him to sing. Toby, of course, escaped – by driving his Ford (who sponsored the tour) off the space ship. There were loud and bright fire works on the stage, and a huge band: Toby on acoustic guitar, plus two electric guitars, slide, bass, drums, a trumpet, trombone, sax, and background singers. Horns for a country singer? Who knew?! The set had a Ford truck coming through the back wall, and guitars were sent down from the top of the set each time he needed to change them out.

As for the crowd, they went wild when he came on stage. He has extremely loyal and devoted fans. I saw several military uniforms in the audience, which was fitting, as Toby is known for his strong support for our troops.

He started the show with "Red White, and Blue," while red, white, and blue fire works went off. He then went on to sing "What Happens in Mexico," followed by his hit song "I’m Just Talking About Tonight." Toby had the crowd hanging onto -- and singing along with -- his every word.

Toby didn't do a ton of new songs; he sang what the crowd wanted to hear and what they paid to hear. His hits! Including "Talk About Me," "Ain’t Much Fun Since I Quite Drinking," and one of my favorites, "Should’ve Been A Cowboy." This one he changed up a bit from the recorded version. He made it interesting by performing it with a hint of reggae, which was very cool.

Toby’s fans would have camped out all night to hear him sing. They did not want him to leave the stage. By the end of the night there were plenty of beer drinking, boot wearing, screaming fans to encourage two encores!

-Janenne Remondino, guest reviewer 

Find Toby Keith Tickets: See the tour & form your own opinion!

Monday, July 11, 2005


Write Your Own Review: Agree with Ames's take on Coldplay live? Feel like she must be deaf, dumb and blind? This is your chance to spout off and share your opinion.

Do you agree? Let us know if we see eye to eye.

Not sure what to say? Read our review to get started.

Got the set list? Post it here so we can compare notes!


The Beacon Theatre, New York, 5/17/05


John Mayer has a column in Esquire (and yes, I do have a point). In it, he muses on the merits of his fave musicians and pop culture ephemera. Who knew the kid could write?

Anyway, sitting here at the start of the night, impatiently awaiting the appearance of the next great hope to come from the Radiohead gene pool across the pond, one of Mayer's musings came to mind. To paraphrase Mayer, Coldplay are brilliant. (Yes, John, we know. And we're impressed that you have the good taste to mention it.) But, he points out, Chris Martin has a lot riding on this album. How, Mayer wonders, can the king of all things introspective, plaintive and lonely possibly have anything to say now that he's so happily -- and publicly -- situated in marital and patriarchal bliss? What could the crowned prince of intellectualized insecurity possibly have for us to relate to and identify with now? I find I'm of the same mind as Mayer. For Pete's sake, Chris Martin is married to an Oscar winning actress; an American icon as famous for her physical beauty as for her talent and terrible taste in baby names. Woe art thou, Chris Martin. Whoa indeed. (*insert sighing sound here*) And with such tremendous international success with their previous album, the follow up could be a make it or break it release.

Little did I know that Coldplay had a lot riding on this show, too. A private concert held by AOL Music Live at New York's Beacon Theatre, it will be America's introduction to their new material when it streams to millions online at The audience is largely label types, with just a few lucky Coldplay lovers who had the good fortune to win tickets to the show. I think the question on the label people's lips may have been the same as Mayer's. After 3 years away, will their investment stillbe relevant to the ticket- and cd-buying public?

So, when they first appeared on stage earlier this evening, the sense of expectation in the air must have been palpable to Chris & Co. But to us Average Joes on the main floor, we just couldn't believe how darned lucky we are to have scored seats! In my case, I've missed all previous trips stateside, so this has been my big chance to make up for being late to the Coldplay party. And here they are on the stage of the Beacon, thanking the crowd "for coming to see us after three years of being gone!"

Coldplay are serving up their trademark sound, creating sonic landscapes with each song. It has been the kind of show where I find myself closing my eyes, lost in the music. And man, do I love it when that happens.

Chris Martin is a dynamic frontman. He's definitely the focal point, the star of the show without having an "I'm the star of the show" attitude. No strutting or peacockery from Martin. He earns the crowd's rapt attention, through pure talent, sincerity and understated charisma. When he raises his hands to the sky, howling, there are no Bono-esque messianic tendencies or "I'm on TV" posturing. It's just what he does when he's in the moment. When he bends low over the piano, it's almost as if he feels he can get closer to the music that way. And though Chris is undeniably a frontman, you can tell by the way he interacts with his bandmates that he considers himself one member of a band. It's not just The Chris Martin show, which makes me respect him all the more.

As a whole, the band is a cohesive unit with all their chops honed. Though this show is among the first they've played this go-round, they're in sync and tight. Rusty they are not.

They start us off with a moody tune, presumably off the new album, setting the tone for the evening -- one which they would find themselves battling at times. Enthralled, we listened attentively, eager to hear something new but familiar. Perhaps the band was looking for a more feverish response. If so, they should have opened with a howling crowd-pleaser.

Meanwhile, starting as it did, the crowd listened enrapt, hungrily drinking up the first notes we've ever heard from X&Y. But maybe Chris couldn't feel that vibe from the stage. Perhaps he confused enrapt attention with losing our attention. He seemed concerned we might be... dare I say it... bored?! Nothing could have been farther from the truth! Alas, from his between-song patter, it seemed he got off on the wrong foot, under a mistaken impression:
    "We have the feeling like we're doing terribly badly. With all these cameras, we feel like we're on 'The Apprentice.' But we're not on 'The Apprentice!' We're f%$#ing Coldplay! So we're going to forget the cameras and give the best show of our lives!"

Believe me, we screamed, we applauded, we swayed, we swooned. Perhaps the label types in the balconies weren't quite as boisterous. Maybe they brought the collective effect down for the band. If that's the case, it's a darned shame. I wish Chris could have gotten the audience-eye-view of Gwyneth dancing around proudly, and my fellow fans waxing rhapsodic about how much "Coldplay RULES!"

As a live band, Coldplay isn't about showboating or spotlighting any one person's virtuosity with long solos or rants. They're about creating a sound, an atmosphere, an ambience, a mood, an environment. They could play with an elaborate light show or in the pitch black around a candle, and they would still sound as if they're playing just for themselves, working out their demons. Or playing just for you, giving you something to identify with and relate to.

Make no mistake. For any fans of Parachutes or A Rush of Blood to the Head, there has been plenty to sing along and swing along to. With their expert manipulation of dynamics, swelling into crashing crescendos or lulling with playful pianissimo, we have been transported to Coldplay's planet. And it's a nice place to visit. It might be grand to buy a house and try living there awhile.

As if to address John Mayer's question head-on and any doubting Thomas in the audience, Martin sings, "What if you should decide that you don't want me there by your side." Yes folks, Chris still has that touching insecurity we crave that makes him accessible. He's still mortal and we can still identify with him, despite his fame and good fortune. Think about it -- would you feel 100% secure with golden goddess Gwyneth as a wife? I imagine anyone would probably be preoccupied, dreading the day that she wakes up wondering why she's with them, too.

There have been so many quintessential Coldplay moments tonight. But there's one that really sticks out. As the crowd crows along, singing, "I was lost, oh yeah," Martin beats his heart as if to remind us to sing from the heart, or that we're touching his heart. And when he asks us, "Is anyone going to come see us again? We'll be so much better, I promise," there wasn't a voice in the room that didn't roar.

The bottom line? Coldplay is amazing live. I guess an off night for them is equivalent to the best gig most bands will ever play.

-- Ames Friedman

Find Coldplay Tickets: See the tour & form your own opinion!

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

In Your Own Words: U2

"This one was better than both San Diego shows, but Anaheim was the best."  Or so says U2 fan Josh C. of the 5/18 show at the Meadowlands in NJ.

Do you agree? Let us know which show rocked the most.

Have more to say? Give us the goods on the Vertigo Tour.

Got the set list? Post it here so we can compare notes!


Monday, May 16, 2005


Write Your Own Review: Agree with Ames's take on Maroon 5 live? Feel like she must be deaf, dumb and blind? This is your chance to spout off and share your opinion.

Do you agree? Let us know if we see eye to eye.

Not sure what to say? Read our review to get started.

Got the set list? Post it here so we can compare notes!



Honda Civic Tour, Radio City Music Hall, New York, 4/8/05

Who would have guessed it would be all bright lights, big cities for Maroon 5 if you had seen them seemingly marooned 5 years ago. But dang, how the landscape has changed. Here we are at the third and final of a string of sold-out dates at Radio City Music Hall shortly after their big night at the Grammys. Yes, that’s right. Allow me to underscore that: Radio City Music Hall. (Yes, that Radio City Music Hall.) Three sold-out nights. Grammy win.

Where were they five years ago? Marooned on a desert island of modern rock mediocrity without a prayer of rescue. In my daydream, it went something like this: “Skipper, Maryann, let’s put some Ginger in the sound and turn ourselves into the new reigning Professors of funkalicious dance rock for a post-Timberlake neo-soul era.”

With the band’s brand of funkified alt-pop pumping out hooky grooves by the minute, it’s no wonder John Mayer’s audiences were won over, one by one, over the course of two consecutive tours. Who cares if the audience had never heard of Maroon 5 before? The minute “This Love” comes spilling out of the speaker cabs, no crowd with a pair of eardrums between them could help but get off their @$$es and boogie. I dare you to try and sit that one out.

Any musician worth their Marshall stacks can tell you that the greatest test an unknown band can face is an enormous crowd of virgin ears. Think about it. Three years of opening for other bands’ megatours later, and Maroon 5 find themselves nailing platinum records to their walls, selling out dates across the country, and winning the Grammy. If that’s not the best endorsement for a band’s ability to rock a live show, I don’t know what is. They shot from obscurity, not only due to their hook-writing ability, but on the strength of their live performances. It’s hard to think of a better argument for why you should buy a concert ticket. ‘Nuff said on that account.

So yeah, it was easy enough to convince me that this was one of the tickets well worth spending my hard-earned money on this season. (Doesn’t hurt that it wasn’t an expensive ticket to begin with, either.) But still, I was dying of curiosity. Maroon 5 released Songs About Jane in 2002. How would they sound after 3 years straight touring behind the same material? Would they be bored? Would they be jaded?Would AdamLevine strip to his skivvies just to give himself something to remember the night by? (I thought it best to remain optimistic and look on the bright side, of course.)

Well, here I am. And I can testify, brothers and sisters, that Maroon 5 have the mark of true musicians. Hallelujah, Amen. Rather than resorting to limp renditions or big explosion gimmickry, they went to the heart of each tune and mixed it up. These boys can play their instruments – sung, strung, struck or tickled. In my humble opinion, the mark of a true musician is the ability to get swept up in the movement of a tune and improvise. And I don’t mean an out-of-left-field vocal outburst or some misguided attempt at a screaming guitar solo. I mean the ability to get back to the essence of a song and jam. That’s the kind of improv that grabs hold of a crowd and sweeps them up in the moment with the band.

Jump on your next opportunity to see Maroon 5 live. These tunes will make you shake your rump-ah, with an undercurrent of heat that made Kelly Preston agree to make out with a skinny musician in a rock video. Yeah, it’s the kind of energy that has the guys here in the audience tonight making eyes at all the fine females in the room. Maroon 5 has made everyone in the joint tonight feel sexy – it’s palpable and the joint is jumping.

The High Notes: Set Standouts

Fantastically funky.

-Harder to Breathe:
I'm blown away by the sound quality of both the venue and the band. They're working a very bassy, rich guitar sound.

-The Sun:
"Hot asphalt?" He ain't kiddin'! They took it down a notch and sexed it up.

-Wasted Years(?):
They broke out this new tune perhaps to remind the audience that they have no plans to become one hit wonders facing that dreaded sophomore slump. For you M5 purists out there, no need to worry that they'll be perpetrating any 'what were they thinking' blunders, abandoning the sound you love. If this new tune is any indication, the neo-soul is safe.

One of my personal faves on the album and one of the crowd's faves of the night. They mixed it up at the end with some highly original segues into unexpected cover tunes: "Sign your name across my heart, I want you to be my lady..." into "Those days are over, Roxanne..." into "We don't need no education..." -- all over a break-it-down-now mellow jam. Crowd hysteria ensued. Meanwhile, Adam is really the only showman in the band with anounce of showboat in him. Which is, let's face it, useful in a frontman.

-This Love:
One of the biggest highlights of the night. Adam busted out with the first line in a capella, at which point the audience took over (without any prompting from him, I might add) and sang the entire first verse and chorus without a single note being played. I love spontaneous crowd moments like these. One of the things that can make live music such a transporting experience.

"This is a song from one of our favorite bands..." And what is it? An Oasis cover! Just their luck,
Oasis are on tour through September.

-She Will Be Loved:
Even with the volume turned up to 11, the crowd could still be heard singing along with every word.
Buy Maroon 5 tix and maybe you too will get lucky and hear Adam explain the mom angle in the song's video. "It doesn't really make sense -- it just looked good. And I really wanted to make out with Kelly Preston." Who can argue with that?

-Ames Friedman